The expected tier one decks showed up this weekend in huge numbers at Pro Tour Magic 2015: White-Black Midrange, Black Devotion, White-Blue Control, and Blue Devotion were seemingly everywhere this weekend. Most players were under the impression that Standard hadn't changed much with the addition of the new core set. This weekend, that notion has been dispelled by the dominance of off-the-beaten-path archetypes like Jund Planeswalkers, White-Red Burn, Naya Aggro, and White-Green Aggro. What will Standard look like in the wake Pro Tour Magic 2015?
Let's start by taking a look at the composition of the Top 8. The expected Black Devotion, Blue Devotion, and White-Blue Control decks that showed up in huge numbers didn't penetrate the Top 8 with the levels of consistency that one might have expected. It's clear that the Standard format is healthier than ever with seven unique archetypes in this Pro Tour Top 8.
2 White-Black Midrange
1 Naya Aggro
1 White-Blue Control
1 White-Red Burn
1 Jund Planeswalkers
1 White-Green Aggro
1 Nissa Jund Planeswalkers
This much diversity wasn't expected, and it's a refreshing reminder that Magic's greatest minds can transcend an existing canon and innovate their way to success.
I sat down with some professional Magic players and asked them what they've learned about the new Standard format this weekend.
No. 3 Ranked Player Stanislav Cifka doesn't think Standard has changed a great deal. In his mind, all of the best cards (Sphinx's Revelation, Thoughtseize) have been in the format for the last year. The biggest difference to Cifka is the pain-lands. The Black decks can easily play Green or White with access to better mana bases. As a result, other decks needed to adapt. For example, Sphinx's Revelation strategies needed to move away from Detention Sphere in favor of Quicken and Planar Cleansing. Quicken allows the deck to deal with Obzedat, Ghost Council and Planar Cleansing gives the deck a very strong card against the new Planeswalker strategies that will likely rise in popularity after this event. Cifka maintains that Standard is still mostly about finding a plan that's strong against Sphinx's Revelation and Thoughtseize.
Ari Lax believes the Standard form of this weekend was confined by specific powerful cards like Sphinx's Revelation, Thoughtseize, and Master of Waves. According to Lax, successful players in this Pro Tour had tuned and tested more than their peers. "No one cracked the code." Most of the decks were known entities coming into this weekend. The most exciting new deck was the French Goblin Rabblemaster deck, but even that was an extension of an existing archetype.
Christian Calcano believes that straight Black Devotion is probably better than the versions splashing for a second color, even if those versions had more success on the weekend. Calcano still thinks control is a strong choice going forward. "I would definitely continue playing it." Calcano thinks that control players will likely switch to Planar Cleansing versions of the deck in coming weeks to battle the Jund Planeswalker strategies that will become increasingly popular.
Gerry Thompson just finished his internship as a Magic developer for Wizards of the Coast. He believes that we've learned that Standard isn't just a three deck (Blue Devotion, Black Devotion, Sphinx's Revelation) format as many may have thought coming into this event. There were powerful entities that were available for the players that were willing to put in the work and figure out what's important. Players that can peg a format for a specific tournament have more options. It's clear that aggression is really good against the new versions of Black and control strategies, the people that found a way to beat Blue Devotion with a very aggressive deck were greatly rewarded in this tournament.
Shuhei Nakamura didn't learn much about Standard this weekend. He thinks that everyone else learned that Nissa, Worldwaker is a very powerful card, but he already knew that.
Nissa, Worldwaker, Caves of Koilos, and Stoke the Flames seem to be the most important cards from Magic 2015. In the coming weeks, we'll see how the Standard format evolves in future events. What did you learn from what happened at Pro Tour Magic 2015?